Yale Spring Opera/The Old Maid and the Thief/Le Rossignol

I really love the Spring offerings from Yale Opera.

They are cleverly done, especially considering that they are performed in Sprague Hall, which, while a beautiful concert hall, was not built for theatre. Directors are given the task of making the hall work as a theatrical stage, so they have been very clever in the way that they use variances of height, projections, color blocking, and many other manipulations that give us a dynamic production in a black box.

Such was the case this past weekend when Sprague played host to the last opera production of the school year.

Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera, THE OLD MAID AND THE THIEF was originally written for the radio. and premiered in 1939.  NBC Radio commissioned Menotti to write the piece, and this helped to boost Menotti’s popularity in the US. (NBC Television would later commission Menotti to write AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS which debuted in 1951 and was performed live to air.)

Once again, the projections designed by Camilla Tassi were outstanding. I wrote about Camilla’s beautiful projections for ORFEO just recently (Yale Baroque Opera…..)  and I think she is a very talented artist.  Projections have had a dramatic impact on live theatre, and they continue to be utilized more and more.  Camilla’s projections transformed a concert Hall into a vibrant space that helped to tell the story of a spinster, her nosey neighbor, her romantic, yet frantic servant, and a stranger that enters and disrupts their lives.

If you are familiar with Sprague, you know that the back of the stage holds three beautiful blue curtains.


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For this production, the curtains were covered, and the whole back wall was white. Going back to the idea of a radio program,  bass-baritone, Brady Muth played the role of the radio announcer, and while he spoke, the type-written words were projected off the back wall.

Theresa Kesser, as Miss Todd was delightful. She has good comedic timing, and a rich, warm mezzo-soprano. Lauren McQuistan played Miss Pinkerton with tremendous energy, and sounded just great. Laetitia, played by soprano Laura Nielsen was hilarious!  The audience adored her, and with good reason.  She is beautiful, cheeky, and has a lovely voice that will, no doubt, play a big part in the next opera season. The very attractive baritone, Edwin Joseph played Bob  (yep, just Bob) who enters Miss Todd’s home and Laetitia’s heart.  I hope we see much more of him next season, for he was delightful. And did I mention he was attractive???


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Laura Nielsen and Edwin Joseph in Gian Carol Menotti’s THE OLD MAID AND THE THIEF


Igor Stravinsky’s, Le Rossignol…

is the story of a nightingale whose mesmerizing voice saves the life of an Emperor. The role of the Nightingale was played by Leah Bryzski, whose mesmerizing voice walked away with the show on Saturday evening.

Visually, this was a knockout.  The stage was mostly white, the costumes and make-up on all, but the Nightingale and the Emperor (played beautifully by Hans Tashjian) was also in black and white. This made the scene where death and her crowd march through in black, hooded robes and sickles,  very effective.  Once again Camilla Tassi’s projections added some depth to what was already a stunning stage.

The Fisherman was played by the always entertaining Fidel Angel Romero, and Cook was played by Laura Nielsen, who continued to delight the audience in the second half of the night as she did in the first.

The show belonged to Leah Bryzski, though.  Her high notes are just bell-like, and she is a solid actress.  Physically, she is very tiny, and Hans Tashjian is VERY tall. This made the scenes where they are singing together quite effective, as the perspective seems almost accurate between bird and man. Leah has, as I mentioned, beautiful high notes, but the beauty does not begin and end there.  She has it all.  Her extra bow at the curtain, which was initiated by her fellow cast members, said it all.

So, this is the last of the opera offerings for 2018-2019 at Yale. Most, of the singers know where they will be spending their summers, and since this is the last year for at least half the company, it will be interesting to see what they will be up to from this point on. Check back, as I will be starting a new column about where they are all now.


Yale Opera presents Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief & Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol

Rehearsal of LE ROSSIGNOL




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